Indiana Supreme Court Upholds Privilege of Corporal Punishment

Lest recent events lead you to think that all judges have taken leave of their senses, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled earlier in the week 4-1 that “A parent is privileged to apply such reasonable force or to impose such reasonable confinement upon his [or her] child as he [or she] reasonably believes to be necessary for its proper control, training, or education.” It goes on to provide a list of factors for courts to consider in determining just what is “reasonable” in the circumstances. Professor Volokh has details on the factors, which I think are pretty straightforward.

Now, I personally think that if things have escalated to the point that violence is necessary to discipline a child, we are already talking about a serious failure of parenting. I don’t mean an open-handed swat to the bottom of a very young child. Once the issue becomes older kids being hit with paddles, belts, or switches or just flat out beat down by a parent, no matter what the kid has done, the parent is as much a failure.

Now, crappy parents should be ridiculed and mocked whenever they show themselves in public. They should never be invited to dinner parties and always be subjected to uncomfortable silences when they show up at the church picnic. There should be special nursing homes for them where the jello has always already melted in the little plastic bowl and the urine smell actually comes from an additive they put in when they wash the sheets. But they should not be subject to felony convictions for reasonably disciplining their children.

What follows is an example of a parent who failed somewhere along the line. There will be no lime jello in her future. But are we supposed to take away the last means of straightening out her child, who had a history of lying and theft?

The February 2006 incident began when the boy took a bag of Willis’ clothes to school and tried to give them to a classmate. A teacher caught him and contacted his mother.Willis, a single mother, testified that grounding her son had failed the last time he was caught stealing. When he denied the new theft, she sent him to her sister’s home for two days. She also decided to swat him with a belt.

“I thought about it over the entire weekend and I even tried to talk to him again,” Willis said, according to the Supreme Court opinion. “And he continued to lie. . . . I didn’t know what else to do.”

According to court documents, Willis had her son remove his pants and then hit him five to seven times on the buttocks with an extension cord or belt, resulting in bruising. The boy showed the bruises to a school nurse, who contacted authorities. Willis was arrested and charged with a Class D felony.

A reasonable use of force? The Indiana Supremes think so. Abuse caseworkers in Indiana are wringing their hands even though they shouldn’t be. They are required to report even the possibility of abuse. It is up to the prosecutor to make the right decision on whether to seek charges. This holding is directed to them far more than to the school nurse.

~ by Gabriel Malor on June 13, 2008.

6 Responses to “Indiana Supreme Court Upholds Privilege of Corporal Punishment”

  1. *sigh* You’re sort of getting slammed on the Ace thread, and I have no wish to add to that…but having kids of your own really does change your perspective on a lot of things. Particularly discipline and parenting. Really — it sounds like a bullshit cop-out, but it’s absolutely true.

    Full disclosure (or “open discovery,” if you prefer): I have three of the little scamps — 7, 4 and 10 months. I can count on one had the number of times I’ve spanked both of the older kids. (“Spanking” defined as “a light pop on the ‘tocks that’s more sound effect and sting.” I’ve never used any instrument to spank my kids.)

    In our house, spanking is reserved for really, truly serious offenses. Let go of my hand and try to dart across the parking lot? *smack* Bald-faced lying? *smack* Climbing on to the counter and playing with the knife block? *smack smack*

    Now, each child is different…my 4 year old reacted to time-out the way a vampire reacts to garlic. It’s the worst punishment ever, and he’ll do just about anything to avoid time-out. The oldest? Grounding and loss of privileges works effectively.

    It’s the THREAT of the truly awful spanking that’s effective, as well.

    I think interfering in appropriate punishments and letting the government restrict parenting is an awfully slippery slope. I think the courts got this one right.

  2. Professor, naw, it’s all good over at Ace’s. If I wanted to be agreed with all the time, I’d write somewhere else. I agree that the court got this one right.

  3. ahem.

    I don’t have kids. Sometimes spanking is necessary. End of subject.

    Is that a kosher enough a statement for you?

    • No You don’t have children you do not get to have an opinion on how a parent should discipline children.

  4. It has never been illegal anywhere in America to spank a kid, and no one was ever arrested for spanking unless it left significant bruises. This ruling changes nothing for normal parents. It simply tells abusers it’s ok to strip your kids naked and beat them black and blue with an extension cord. Thanks to four idiot judges abusers can now rest assured that they can never be held accountable.

    As a child I lived my life in fear of the belt. Not the respectful fear of molesting a bee in the yard, but gnawing dread and mortal terror you would know if you were forced to sleep every night with a deadly rattlesnake under the covers of your bed.

    Being abused does not teach you discipline or make you a good person. It leaves people permanently afflicted with crippling emotional and mental illness. It’s easy to say that being abused is better than not being disciplined at all when you are not the one living with flashbacks of beatings from decades ago that come uncontrollably while working, making love, or watching TV.

    The mother in this case was asked to serve three days in jail for bruising her child during a spanking. This is a very modest price for a parent to pay to ensure that kids who are being whipped black and blue are allowed a day in court. But thanks to the selfishness of one woman and the foolishness of four judges thousands of victims of child abuse in Indiana are now denied any possibility of intervention, and will serve life sentences with trauma related injuries with no possibility of parole or appeal.

    Indiana parents and survivors are organizing to fight this; please write your lawmakers and demand laws restoring the protection for kids that this irresponsible ruling removed.

    Click the link to watch a disturbing video of a spanking that the Indiana Supreme Court has made legal.

  5. Every kid is different. Some kids respond to time out and taking away their toys and others don’t. Some need corporal punishment. It is not your place nor the courts place to tell a parent a damn thing about how they punish their children. As for the over-dramatic “rattlesnakes under your blanket” person above, maybe they didn’t fail in how they punished you. Maybe they failed in how they rewarded you. If all you can think out years later is how you got your ass beat: either A) you’re a wimp or B) they failed in other areas and you have way more issues than some physical pain in your childhood. A bruise on the ass will heal but letting your child run loose and wreak havoc affects everybody. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat. Don’t hurt others. Do what you’re supposed to do. Thats the rules in my household. You don’t have to like my rules but you have to respect them because they’re no ones business but ours. Unless someones making their child bleed or breaking their bones, mind your own business. You have zero say-so. So just do the rest of us a favor and insert your self-righteous, politically correct, into your ass

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